[Fsfe-ie] time to act on MS's OOXML ISO application

Ciaran O'Riordan ciaran at fsfe.org
Wed Jan 24 21:42:30 CET 2007

I was talking with Basil Cousins of OFE and some people from FFII today and
it seems there is an accute need to do something before Feb 5th about MS's
application to have OOXML approved as an ISO standard.

I'm merging information from many people and am trusting my sources, so
excuse any errors I make and please correct me where you can.

The situation is that MS have gotten their document format approved by one
standards group (ECMA or ECEA or something), but that group isn't very
strict and mostly requires that the application is submitted in the correct
manner and that the fees are attached.

Next, MS is going for ISO certification, which would be a serious
certification and is important to public sector bodies and many large
private sector ones.  MS have a lot of influence over the various ISO
committees and have applied for the approval to be done on a fast-track
6-month procedure.

It would be bad for MS's OOXML file format to be accepted as a standard
because it's a huge spec of 6 or 7 thousand pages, and contains many
requirements such as "behaviour must be the same as Word 97" (without saying
what that Word 97 behaviour is, and of course we can't ever really know
because we can't see the source).  So OOXML is not a valid standard, and it
could not be implemented by OpenOffice.org, or KWord, or Abiword, or Emacs.

I'm sure there are plenty of other nasties, and I've heard Groklaw has
published some articles about these.

The structure of ISO is that they have a central committee plus "mirror
committees" in the economically larger nations.  Is there a relevent mirror
committee in Ireland?

So we want ISO to take this off the fast-track procedure, and to do that we
have to make the examiners aware that there are flaws and that people are
paying attention to this, so the flaws can't be ignored.

I'm told that the most sure way to get it taken off the fast track procedure
are to point out incompatibilities with existing ISO standards, and I'm told
that the way MS's OOXML stores dates is one example since there is an ISO
standard date format and MS's OOXML uses some other format.

It should be an easy do, but we have to do it.  The probable course of
action is an open letter like we used to send to the MEPs.

Anyone got knowledge of ISO procedures?
Anyone got knowledge of ISO representation in Ireland?
Anyone know of incompatibilities between OOXML and other ISO standards?
Anyone got some very concise nasties about OOXML?
Anyone got corrections to what I've heard/said?

Ciarán O'Riordan __________________ \ http://fsfeurope.org/projects/gplv3
http://ciaran.compsoc.com/ _________ \  GPLv3 and other work supported by
http://fsfe.org/fellows/ciaran/weblog \   Fellowship: http://www.fsfe.org

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